As the founder and CEO of Unity House of Davenport, a nonprofit organization providing housing and support for recovering addicts, Dennis manages seven recovery houses and an average of three new residents per week.
A voluntary deployment to Iraq in 2003 as a Department of Defense civilian inspired Dennis to open Unity House. Upon his return to the U.S., he began converting the house he was renovating into a place for recovering addicts as a way to give back to the community.
Running Unity House requires Dennis’ health and attention, both of which were hard to fully dedicate while Dennis endured the pain of a lifelong foot condition.
Dennis was 14 years old at the time of his first surgery to correct a bone in his foot that was out of place. Subsequent corrective surgeries over the years failed to heal the painful condition, and arthritis started to cause additional complications. His doctors tried cortisone injections, but the pain persisted.
His doctor recommended a surgical solution and Dennis underwent a procedure to prevent the arthritic bones from rubbing against each other. His doctor used cancellous chips, an allograft created from donated bone, during the surgery.
“I feel happy about the tissue transplant as a bit of this person lives on in me as I go through the rest of my life endeavoring to do God’s will and help others,” said Dennis. “I believe this is the same spirit in which the donor gave to me.”
Dennis’ recovery was slow and steady. He could not put any weight on his foot for six weeks, and then transitioned to crutches and a cane for six months following the surgery.
“I am able to walk today with no pain at all,” said Dennis. “I now use a stationary bicycle for exercise and I take our little dog for walks around the block. I honestly never dreamed I would be able to do this. I am so much happier today and I will be eternally grateful.”
Unity House has served over 2,000 residents since 2004, and the tissue donation offered by a generous donor will help Dennis continue to provide resources and support to those in need.
Snowboarding has been a huge part of John’s life for almost 20 years, so his life changed drastically when an injury forced him off the mountains. On a beautiful powder day in 2013, John fell and dislocated his shoulder and fractured his humeral head.
“My injury prevented me from being active and affected every aspect of my day-to-day life,” he said. “Needless to say, it ended my snowboarding season and sidelined me from just about all physical activity for months.”
John received a bone allograft during the procedure to repair his damaged shoulder. Bone allografts are created from donated human tissue and can be used for skeletal reconstruction.
“I was immediately grateful that a stranger had decided to donate tissue to someone they would never meet,” said John.
John was familiar with what his recovery process might entail after enduring several other shoulder surgeries. His activity level was restricted and he completed rigorous physical therapy. After several months of healing, he got his active lifestyle back.
He now participates in the array of outdoor sports Colorado has to offer – he enjoyed a great snowboarding season this past winter and looks forward to the summer activities he loves.
“I am back to golfing, running, hiking and camping,” he said. “I have no idea how much longer the recovery process may have been without an allograft or if I would have as much use of my arm today without it. As with my other shoulder procedures, my shoulder is not the same as it was before the injury, but life would look drastically different for me without the allograft or procedure.”
John is grateful for the donation that helped repair his shoulder and humbled by the generosity of the donor and the donor’s family. Receiving an allograft reaffirmed his belief in donation and he encourages others to register as donors.
“I have always elected to be an organ and tissue donor and my experience receiving a donation only reinforces my desire to donate my organ and tissues,” he said. “I have also reached out to friends and family about receiving a tissue donation and encouraged them to look into electing to become donors themselves.”
When Cebrina went to see her doctor for ongoing foot pain, she never imagined that her doctor would diagnose her with a rare bone disorder.
A bone scan revealed a four-inch tumor in Cebrina’s femur. Her diagnosis was Fibrous Dysplasia, an uncommon bone disease that causes bone pain, deformities and fractures. It can go unnoticed for years and can eventually cause bones to bow or fracture.
Her foot pain was unrelated to the Fibrous Dysplasia, but if not for the bone scan, the tumor in her leg could have continued to grow until it caused a bone fracture. Cebrina’s tumor had likely been growing for many years.
Cebrina’s doctor told her the tumor, though benign, was changing the shape of her femur and needed to be removed. After removing the tumor, her surgeon used cortical and cancellous chips, types of bone allografts, to fill the void in her femur. Bone allografts are created from tissue provided by generous donors who have passed away.
“You take your health for granted until something like this happens,” she said. “As I’m healing and getting better, I’m so appreciative of what I have.”
After surgery, Cebrina used crutches and eventually a cane to help her walk. She was determined to stay active and walked her dog along their usual route, even though it took two hours instead of one.
Through exercise and physical therapy, she eased back into her normal routine. Three weeks after surgery, Cebrina returned for half days to her busy job as the Audio Visual Administrative Assistant and Production Assistant for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Cebrina reflected on receiving donated tissue during her procedure, and said that following surgery she double-checked her own donor status.
“I figured that someone gave to me and I want to pay that back someday,” she said.
Cebrina gauges her improvement by how long her walking route takes her, and she is happy to report her route is back to one hour. Her family encouraged her throughout the recovery process and bought her a stationary bike, so she could stay active. She is thankful for her health and for the donor who helped make her recovery possible.
Visitors to this site may know John’s story, the fire chief who received a bone allograft during spinal surgery. John completed intense physical therapy and personal training so he could get back to fighting fires and enjoying an active lifestyle.
No stranger to extreme physical challenges, John completed a rigorous obstacle race last week – he traversed 3.38 miles through 13 obstacles. The obstacles ranged from completing an agility run through 100 tires, jumping over fences and pommel horses, running through lagoons and ponds, crawling through deep sand over four hills, to swimming through muddy water. He finished second in his heat and though he was completely exhausted, he was very proud that he completed the race.
John knows he has come a long way in his recovery and doesn’t believe he could have completed such a grueling course a year ago. Even though he just finished a demanding race, he’s already preparing for a 5k this upcoming weekend. John’s commitment to fitness is one of the ways he honors the donor who helped him return to the activities he loves.
As Jodi and Jesse McGinley prepared for the birth of their twin boys, they never imagined one of the twins, Eli, would survive just 31 hours. The grieving parents made the brave decision to donate Eli’s tissues so his short life would have a long-lasting impact for another child.
The McGinley’s decision to donate saved the life of Cambrie Gadbois, a baby who was born with a heart defect and needed a heart valve transplant. The Gadbois family often thought about the family who helped save their daughter’s life while navigating the grief of losing a child. Both families wanted to meet, and recently they had the chance to do so.
Watch the moving video of their first meeting, where Jodi and Jesse were able to hear Eli’s heart valve at work for Cambrie.
When reviewing Mckenzie’s MRI, her doctor noticed a spot on her femur. He diagnosed Mckenzie with a rare tumor condition called Chondroblastoma, which can cause pain and recurring tumors. The condition generally affects long bones and is most common in children and young adults.
The pain forced Mckenzie to end her soccer career, a sport she played and loved since kindergarten. Normal activities like walking and standing became excruciating.
“It wasn’t easy being diagnosed with something so serious as a child,” said Mckenzie. “My life came to a complete stop. My family and I knew we needed to do something because it wasn’t a pain I could spend the rest of my life with.”
Since her diagnosis, Mckenzie has endured five surgeries to remove tumors and clean up her leg. In each surgery, she received donated tissue.
“I think it is amazing what we can do and how we can help others in need,” she said. “I am so thankful I was able to receive tissue.”
Mckenzie received a juvenile cartilage allograft in her most recent surgery. Juvenile cartilage allografts come from donors aged one month to 12-years-old.
Though she still faces some limitations, Mckenzie is pain-free and has been able to return to some of her favorite sports.
“My life won’t ever be 100% normal because of what the tumor did to my leg, but this has helped me in getting my life back,” she said. “If I hadn’t had this procedure I could have eventually lost my leg.”
Mckenzie is grateful for the tissue donation that helped her heal and hopes sharing her experience will encourage others to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
“The only thing I can be is thankful to still be here, as healthy as I can be, and to make sure to tell my story to help others realize how important it is to be a donor.”
AlloSource Hosts Joey Gase, NASCAR Driver and Donor Son, with the Limb Preservation Foundation at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children | May 9, 2014
AlloSource hosted Joey Gase, a NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver and donor son, with the Limb Preservation Foundation at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian St. Luke’s. Gase combines his racing career with his passion for raising awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation by driving the Donate Life racecar.
When his mother, Mary Jo Gase, passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm, Gase, who was just 18 at the time, made the decision to donate her organs and tissue. The experience inspired him to become an advocate for donation while he travels across the United States for races. AlloSource received Mary Jo’s tissue to process it for transplant and it has enhanced the lives of 59 people throughout the country and in Korea.
During his time in the Denver area, Gase visited the Limb Preservation Foundation at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital to see patients, including Jake Doud, a 17-year-old athlete and tissue recipient who had knee surgery in March. Jake received a cartilage allograft and will soon return to the sports he loves, thanks to donor tissue. If Jake did not receive a cartilage transplant, damage to his joint may have required a much more invasive joint replacement procedure. Dr. John Polousky, Jake’s doctor, sees the life-saving and life-enhancing benefits of tissue donation every day in his work at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
AlloSource, The Limb Preservation Foundation and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian St. Luke’s have worked together for 20 years to provide life-saving and life-enhancing possibilities for patients.
A West Virginia newscast spoke with a United Hospital Center nurse who sees the variety of ways donated tissue helps heal patients. Though tissue donation is sometimes less understood than organ donation, one tissue donor can impact over 150 people. Tissue is used in many different capacities ranging from replacing damaged bones or ligaments to aid burn or wound healing.
Though Meko’s life was short, his impact is long lasting because his parents made the selfless decision to donate his tissue. Meko was able to touch the lives of many through a very special type of knee transplant that utilizes juvenile cartilage allograft tissue to treat focal articular defects in the knee, foot, ankle, elbow, shoulder and hip joints.
The 8-month-old’s precious gift has given new hope and transformed the quality of life for:
-a 23-year-old man in Denver, CO
-a 33-year-old man in Thomaston, GA
-a 40-year-old woman in Skokie, IL
-a 24-year-old woman in Omaha, NE
-a 48-year-old woman in Edgewood, KY
…and 68 other individuals of all ages across the United States
His family takes comfort in knowing that Meko’s donation improved so many lives.
Nearly 1 million tissue transplants are performed every year, and the need for life-saving and life-enhancing donated tissue is on the rise. Donated tissue is used in a variety of medical procedures that can save limbs, heal burns, repair joints and more.
Exciting developments in the medical field have created more ways to maximize the gift of donated tissue, but with new discoveries comes a growing call for tissue donors.
A recent article by The Telegram & Gazette explores the need for more people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
Four organ procurement organizations, Donor Alliance (Denver), Mid-America Transplant Services (St. Louis), Gift of Life (Ann Arbor), and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (Pittsburgh), have opened separate recovery centers to increase efficiency and lower the cost of the complex donation process.
Staff members from the organ procurement organization (OPO) will transport the donor to the OPO’s surgical suite to perform the organ recovery, as opposed to waiting for an available operating room at a hospital. A separate recovery center frees up hospital space and personnel for emergencies and critical care.
Surgeons travel to the recovery center to recover the organs and then take them to transplant hospitals for placement. Mid-America Transplant Services reports that processing a donor at their own facility costs between 45% and 50% less than using the donor hospital.
The new recovery centers allow donor families to start the funeral process earlier and several OPOs offer donor family waiting rooms so families can be with their loved one longer.
Read more about this innovative way to honor the gift of donation here.
The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) governs tissue banks in the United States. NOTA dictates that tissues cannot be bought or sold. The law allows for reimbursement of the costs related to the recovery, processing and storing of tissue. It also allows for reimbursement of costs associated with development related to tissue processing technologies. The value of donated tissue is priceless, and reimbursements reflect the expenses incurred with their recovery, processing and storage.
Source: American Association of Tissue Banks.
Professor Howard Green: Pushing the boundaries of regenerative medicine since 1983 | October 23, 2013
Harvard Medical School professor Howard Green is an innovator and pioneer. In 1983, he changed the culture and direction of burn treatment and skin transplantation and has since, positively affected countless people’s lives.
Professor Green was able to harness the power of stem cells and developed the first therapeutic use of cells grown in a lab providing hope and relief for severe burn victims.
After realizing the importance and magnitude of his research, Professor Green responded by founding Biosurface Technology to handle the commercialization of the process intending to maximize the reach of his life-changing discovery.
Professor Green’s story is truly an inspiration, read the full Harvard Gazette article HERE.
One year ago, Joseph Gutierrez was unsure if he would ever be an active individual again. Thanks to a gift from a generous donor, Joe is not only physically active, but also active in spreading the word about organ and tissue donation. For Donate Life Month, Joe took to the local news station to tell his personal story about the healing effects of donation.
Donation is truly a gift. The many ways a single donor can save and enhance the lives of others becomes vaster as science advances. One way that donors of any age, shape or size can heal others is through donating skin. Skin serves a wide variety of healing purposes. In the article linked below, we see how skin helps heal those suffering from severe wounds. In this particular case, when other methods failed, donor skin was the last hope for healing.
To all those who are registered donors or have a family member who donated, the gift of donation truly does heal and save.
Your life is valued first.
If you are taken to the hospital after an accident or injury, it is the hospital’s first priority to save you. Only after each and every effort has been made to save your life and death has been declared is it even addressed that you are a donor.
So this isn’t technically a factoid, but we thought it was so much fun that it needed to be posted on a Friday.
Follow this link, scroll over the interactive figure and find out what each part of the body is used for when donated. You’ll learn a lot of “factoids,” and even have some Friday fun in the process!
To honor organ, eye and tissue donors, The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank is exhibiting photos taken by once blind photographers. The cornea transplant recipients were asked to take pictures of what they are most grateful to see after the surgery. In what has been named the Circle of Light Photo Project, the Eye Bank aims to thank donors through the beauty the recipients can now see.
See details on the location, dates and times for the exhibit in the link here.
Saying you want to be an organ and tissue donor on your license may not satisfy your state’s requirements to become a donor. Always make sure your family knows your wishes!
What medicine is capable of these days is truly astounding. These seven stories will remind you just how much donation can do.
Did you know that nearly every major religion endorses organ and tissue donation and sites it is a noble act?
Salmon fishing in Alaska, traveling throughout the country and even sky diving are all activities enjoyed today by Joe. When Joe talks about his active life, it’s hard to tell that less than a year ago, he was at risk of losing his arm.
“I was helping friends with yard work in Arizona when I noticed a pain in my arm,” said Joe. “At the time, I thought I had pulled something.”
Joe went about his daily life until the pain grew so bad, he could no longer lift his arm higher than his waist. Thinking he had a torn rotator cuff, he went to his personal doctor for x-rays.
“After the doctor took the x-rays he didn’t say much, he simply told me things were likely a lot more serious than we had thought,” said Joe.
Joe’s doctor referred to an orthopedist, who then referred him to Dr. Cynthia Kelly with The Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk, as well as the Limb Preservation Foundation.
“He told me she was the best around,” said Joe.
In keeping with the theme of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a great story from Lifeline of Ohio about a breast cancer survivor opting to use donor tissue in her reconstructive surgery. Enjoy here!
This Friday factoid is in honor of breast cancer awareness month!
Did you know that donated tissue can be used to help reconstruct a woman’s breast tissue after undergoing surgery for breast cancer?
It’s just one of the many great things donated tissue can do.
Did you know that donated skin saves the lives of burn victims and victims of other life-threatening skin conditions?